Photo courtesy of EVERETT COLLECTION / CLARA HENDLER.
The early 2000s continues to have influence in our culture.
From fashion trends to music to films and TV shows, anyone who grew up during — what many would consider — a golden age always had something to turn to when expressing themselves or finding something to relate to.
Media created at this time often dealt with many coming-of-age themes, such as first loves, friendship, jealousy, familial relationships, and academic and social pressures. While some films now touch on these themes, they haven’t received the same accolades as early 2000s (and some late 1990’s) classics like Bring It On, She’s the Man, Clueless, She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Mean Girls, to name a few.
So, what is the secret ingredient to making influential films, and why are movies of today not talked about nearly as much?
The answer seems to be in an unexpected place: classic literature.
When looking at most popular teen films of the late 1990s/early 2000s, many of them were based on classic literature. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), John Tucker Must Die (2006) and She’s The Man (2006) are all based on Shakespearean plays (The Taming of the Shrew, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Twelfth Night, respectively), while Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary are both based on Jane Austen classics Emma and Pride and Prejudice.
This trend of utilizing classic literature in film isn’t only limited to the early 2000s, as My Fair Lady (1964), Pretty Woman (1990), She’s All That (1999) and The Duff (2015) are all based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, and there have been numerous adaptations of the classic fairytale Cinderella that continue to win the hearts of millions around the globe.
With early 2000s trends like colorful wardrobes, bucket hats, large sunglasses, chunky belts, crop tops and the infamous low-rise jeans starting to make a comeback, it’s no surprise that films and even television shows from this era are having a resurgence as well.
As this was the last era before digital technology completely changed the trajectory of our lives, it’s only inevitable that people would become extra nostalgic for this time.
From millennials lamenting about their childhoods to younger Gen Z wishing they were old enough to remember the early 2000s, people of all ages have some sentimental ties to the decade.
So, are there any other reasons as to why early 2000s movies are so beloved?
Diana Paredes, a 24-year-old Jersey City resident, believes early 2000s movies are considered undefeated because they “have much more substance. While they were predictable sometimes, there was always a hidden message/meaning in them. It left a lot of thinking for the viewer to do on how these movies impacted them.”
As the lessons in these movies often involved being true to oneself, the plotlines were more thought provoking, with the characters having the perfect amount of relatability while also undergoing somewhat unrealistic scenarios.
While it can be difficult to succinctly describe the 2000s aesthetic because of the monumental trends and media from that era, Paredes would describe it as “unique while also insanely cool. I remember that in the 2000s, actors/actresses used to pull up in jeans and a rhinestone belt to a premiere, and it was the coolest thing but very reachable. I think that now everything is made to seem unattainable to the public, which just ruins (at least I think) the concept that everyone has. That’s why, in my opinion, 2000s trends are making such a hard comeback because people are tired of putting up appearances.”
With social media filters and photo editing becoming an integral part of our online routines, seeing people of this time looking a bit more realistic further enhances the relatability of these films and characters to their audiences.
While dietary trends were still all the rage back then and caused the celebrities of this time to go through extreme lengths to adhere to certain beauty standards, it was more difficult to hide certain “flaws” in a red carpet photo or magazine cover.
Paredes believes that early 2000s movies had an impact on our culture, as they “were roadmaps for a whole generation. Whether it was a Disney movie, a rom-com, or an action movie, everyone was always paying attention. I remember vividly knowing when a movie was going to premiere and that I HAD to go see it.”
As many films of this time were often based on classic works written centuries before, the detailed plot structures and character development that are essential in making a book successful automatically applied to these movies.
With this knowledge in mind, viewers go into the film knowing what to expect and that they will be entertained no matter what.
“There was a more elaborate plot, and If I’m being honest, 2000s films had much more of an impact for me than anything I’ve watched in the last ten years maybe.”
As films from this time reimagined classic plotlines, the impact of these films continues to be timeless.
People will always go through relationship problems (both platonic and romantic), familial and/or financial hardships, academic and social pressures, insecurities about appearance, and a desire to fit in.
So, why are 2000s movies so loved?
“They’re at times corny but funny, sad and heartfelt, deep but informative and thrilling yet emotional. It gave you all the feels without giving away the entire movie,” says Paredes, who is an avid romantic comedy enthusiast.
“Movies like A Cinderella Story (who didn’t love Chad Michael Murray), a classic tale of love but reimagined to apply to any girl in high school looking for Prince Charming, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days shaped my teen years. Something so simple as a boss girl working in the industry manipulating a guy was so extraordinary for that time.”
Reina Makk, 29, who is also from Jersey City, has a differing perspective on the sentiment that early 2000s movies are undefeated.
“There are so many great movies out there, all from different decades, so I don’t necessarily agree when people say 2000s movies are undefeated, because that sounds a bit limiting.”
However, she does believe that these movies have impacted our culture, especially because of the nostalgia surrounding them.
“The protagonists in a lot of these movies were either popular ‘it girls’ or on their way to becoming one, with their main goals being to become popular and girly. With that being said, I feel like these movies subconsciously helped steer us away from exploring some interests such as sports, which we didn’t see that much as being a ‘cool’ hobby in these movies; I think the nature of these movies had us lean more towards our girly side.”
With infinite examples of early 2000s movies that follow a distinct formula that allows them to remain so timeless, it seems as though there are numerous ways for current movies to follow this structure instead of fade into obscurity for the next big thing.
As the future of reading seems grim with an increasing number of attempts in banning classic books across the country, as well as books that discuss racism and LGBTQ+ rights, the trend of basing films on classic literature might soon become extinct.
Will we ever have movies as widely loved again, or will we always be nostalgic for the seemingly better times of the past?